88 - Where Has She Gone?

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The Narrator

"She must have called you accidentally, probably," Felipe said when Bernardo showed an expression indicating that Claire Dakota possibly hung up before they could even talk. 

"Yeah, probably," Bernardo said before taking a seat.

"So, you were saying something earlier, Bernardo?" Luismar asked.

"Yes. So, I don't think that the case of the old man in the village, that of your dog and that of Kantuta and Rina are lone cases. I do agree, sir, that there is something cartographers feared about that area. But, I disagree that it is a ghost. It has to be a serial killer. Coz ghosts are not real. Ghosts and vampires are just midwives' tales."

"What do you think, Luismar?" Felipe asked turning to her.

"We are dealing with something demonic, something supernatural," Luismar said, "We should probably discuss this with an exorcist."

Bernardo smirked.

Luismar noticed his mockery. "I am not joking, Bernardo." Bernardo sniggered again, but Luismar continued as if he didn't. "When I was little, I have seen things, felt things. I moved houses thrice because of this mysterious being haunting it. Unless you have experienced what I experienced, you won't believe what I went through." She was glaring at Bernardo who stopped scoffing awkwardly. 

Bernardo's phone rung again, saving him from that tense, awkward movement. "Hello?" His face suddenly contorted into a look of anxiety.

"What is it?" Felipe asked when he was done with the call.

"Claire she's..."

***

"Where is this house you told me of?" Jackson King asked as he climbed up a hill that gave him a view of the surrounding forest.

"I remember walking this way," Hernanda insisted. 

"From this hill, we can see many kilometers away, Hernanda. You said you ran for about an hour. You couldn't have gone far beyond the horizon here."

"I remember it's somewhere here."

Jackson sighed and turned to Timothy. "Do you know where this house is?"

"No idea, bro. I was unconscious."

"Perhaps we look for the house in another direction. Perhaps I would have lost my sense of direction being inside that hole."

"Hmmm.  Okay." 

***

"At last!" shouted Kirt breaking off his hands from the handcuffs. They were rusted so after stiff-necked perseverance, Heinrich released himself from the chains that bound his hands. Kirt began grunting as he tried to unlock the chains on his leg. They were the hardest to break, and till then they had not broken. Nor in the future, would they break. There was only one way those chains, the ones around his legs, could be unlocked. And, that was by using the keys. And no one knew where the keys were. Kirt continued to jerk his leg, in a vain hope of breaking free.

Alice had fainted. She was frail and sickly. She had vomited blood that day afternoon. Before she had gone unconscious, she did tell Kirt that whenever she coughed she could taste blood at the back of her throat because it was so dry that coughing made it very sore that it began bleeding. 

Her legs were smelling of infection. Worms began to infest the wound on her feet — the one formed by the chafing of the chains. 

Kirt's struggles weren't only with the chains. The dread of the monster returning to flay him and cook him alive clouded his mind. Anxiety and depression were like a millstone hung around his heart, pulling him down. Above all, the fear of death being at the door made the goosebumps on his skin stand up. He knew that there was a little time before his body would degenerate into Alice's condition. His breath stank and the entire room smelled of feces and urine. 

Both he and Alice couldn't hold anything longer out of dignity. Out in the jungle, Kirt used leaves to wash whenever he answered nature's call and some water from the puddles to help. It didn't always work out for the better. Often, he contracted pinworms because of the dirty water in the puddles. It was torture for a few days with that constant pricking sensation at his backside, but he got used to it. 

However being chained inside the house, he had no choice but to release his waste then and there. He was ashamed to be covered in his own feces and urine. Alice was a hygiene freak back at Wolfgang. One could not imagine the disgust she felt being dunked in her own shit. 

***

Four police cars with sirens wailing awoke the streets of Roboré as they raced to a hotel. Disturbed people woke up from their sleep cursing the Police and the reason why they were making that noise at that hour, before resuming their snooze. 

Inside one of that cars was Felipe thinking about how things began to get worse once again just when it felt like there was going to be a breakthrough. When Bernardo received the second phone call in the office, it wasn't from Claire. It was from the caretaker that the police had arranged to check on Claire during her stay at the hotel. She had called up to say that Claire had been missing for three hours. Dakota's neighbors last saw her leave her room at about 8'o clock that night, running into the street. Claire had taken her backpack and her cellphone with her. There was no way to reach her. A few moments before Claire's caretaker phoned Claire had called Bernardo before abruptly hanging up.  Ever since that call, Claire's phone had gone out of coverage. 

After the recent earthquakes, there were many areas without cell phone cover. There was no way one could pinpoint a particular area without mobile tower coverage. They could trace possible areas where Claire might have been by looking at the area where her phone was last connected to the Cell Phone network. But, the process of contacting the cellphone company would take ages and they might even have to approach the courts to obtain a subpoena. The telecom companies have a lot of privacy policies that they would not want to break unless ordered by a court. That itself would take a large amount of time because the courts had been clogged with various cases — concessions, insurance disputes, and so on — ever since the barrage of natural disasters struck the nation. Now, the Police could get a priority over the other cases in the waitlist but even they have various requests in line for court approval. Therefore, the easiest route to find her was the good old way. Moreover, she couldn't have gotten in serious trouble. She must have lost her way during a walk or perhaps a jog. 

When the cars entered the hotel driveway everyone was shocked. Seeing a police car seemed like something unusual in that part of town. They crowded around the police car, asking Luismar and Bernardo what happened. 

"Get them away," Felipe said, shooing away a bunch of curious women who were harassing him with questions. A group of officers formed a human barrier, allowing Bernardo, Felipe, and Luismar to enter the building.

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